The Grand Emperor had assembled his court. Present were his Chief of Legislation, his Chief of Facts and Figures, his Military Chief and, most importantly, his Minister of Agitation.
The statistician stood to present his books before the emperor. He opened pages, pointing to all the figures and formulas, finally proclaiming, “Our situation is dire. The resources of the empire cannot sustain the growth of our populace. The people already grow hungry. And a hungry populace becomes restless, contrary, divisive and combative.”
“Yes,” the Emperor said. “They do breed, consume and contend like rats.”
“Yes. But rats are highly intelligent,” the Minister of Agitation added. “They learn very quickly what to eat and what not to eat. Or what confines to enter or not. They are very evasive. Very elusive.”
The statistician, wishing to avoid a philosophical or psychological discussion about vermin, continued his address about their bigger problem, “And, as our Chief of the Military will attest, we do not possess the forces to suppress an uprising of the populace.”
The Emperor asked his Military Chief, “Is this true, we don’t have the force to restrain the growing populace or a rebellion?”
“We are too scattered about, conquering and defending. It is true,” the Military Chief said.
Twisting his eyebrows, the Emperor pondered a while. Then he declared to his Chief of Legislation, “It is my edict that the populace cannot cut off their cocks. It is law. Now spread it throughout the land.”
Befuddled, the legislator glanced around the table. All but the Minister of Agitation looked astray, no other wishing to confirm nor denounce the emperor’s edict with their eyes.
Lost to affirmation, he returned to the Emperor.
“Are you sure?” the lawmaker asked. “I have not heard of this being a problem. And you know how the peasantry hate petty laws, while already being unnerved and distempered from hunger.”
“Yes,” the Emperor said. “I am sure. Absolutely sure.”
Pretending to examine his notes, the legislator considered.
“Do you mean livestock? Livestock cannot be castrated? Perhaps I have misunderstood.”
“No,” the Emperor insisted. “Men may not mutilate themselves. Nor shall any man castrate another. No genital disfigurement of men, by men. That is the edict.”
The Emperor looked to his Minister of Agitation, then back to the legislator.
“Just make it so,” the Emperor said. “And now you are dismissed.”
The court dispersed, with the exception of the lingering Minster of Agitation.
“Shall I commence the campaign of condemning the genitaled?” he asked.
The Grand Emperor gave pause, a sign of respect to his prized Minister.
“Your brilliance of foresight is only matched by my own,” the Emperor said. “It is truly impressive. But no. Not yet. That will come later, if it’s needed at all”
In the following weeks, the emperor’s edict spread throughout the hamlets and villages of his vast empire. Many of the peasants, already peeved and feeling pestered by weak harvests and hearty taxes, grew even more aggrieved at the latest flexion of their emperor’s authority. Some questioned his sanity. Many began to advocate revolt.
“He provokes us even further with his nonsensical laws,” they said in their squares and meeting halls and taverns. “There is not even a problem of us cutting off our cocks, yet he insists on imposing futile dictates instead of giving us material relief from our worldly woes.”
The sentiment quickly found its way throughout the empire, with only a minority expressing skepticism. And thus, the edict’s spread only added to the commoners’ considerable disgruntlement, alchemizing their chronic, festering discontent to acute resentment. Common gripes in the hills, valleys and shores congealed the peasantry’s long-standing enmity. The aggrieved commoners began to organize with a number men, each sensing opportunity, vying for the position of their figurehead.
In the ensuing months, while the peasants continued to hunger, ballots were distributed and tallied for the selection of the agent who would petition the emperor on the commoners’ behalf. At great expense and with much squabbling and exhaustion of labor, a figurehead was finally chosen. But the empire was vast, so it was decided this elected mouthpiece needed a council of a dozen other men to be dispersed throughout the territories to help him organize, unify their goals and purposes, and collect.
Their elected representative was, of course, the one among many who spoke the most boisterously and confidently – reminding the peasants of the freedoms their previous generations had fought for in overthrowing all the previous tyrannical emperors. He was the candidate who had made the majority of the peasants feel best about themselves, which may have been his most valuable offering. Of his many gifts of rhetoric, he was especially cunning in his lustrous portraiture of the Grand Emperor’s villainy. And it seemed, at least, for all their lumpishness, the commoners had at least recognized their virtuoso in stumbling upon him – this master artisan of unifying both color and form – blending his congregation’s virtue with the Emperor’s evil, culminated in a rich, vivid, intoxicating landscape of eloquent and bumptious bluster.
“‘It is the greatest honor to sacrifice oneself in the name of liberty and emancipation and the defeat of the tyranny of demons and despots,” their newly elected leader proclaimed in his testaments throughout the lands.
“Sacrifice is our highest honor. It is our God-given duty,” he preached.
The commoners returned their approval with cheers, applause and offerings of coins to the rhetoritician for his support and representation of the united cause against the Grand Emperor’s tyranny. Two seasons came to pass as this man and his council traveled from village to hamlet, at great expense, to speak of the pompous Emperor’s cruelty and hubris in imposing nonsensical laws while his people suffered. Their agent’s fame grew as word of his convictions and eloquence spread between those who’d witnessed him and those who only knew of him by rumor, so that in his next passage through any village, the size of the crowds predictably doubled. In his tours, he spoke most laudingly of his congregation while most chastisingly against the venomous Emperor and his court. He also declared the need for greater sums of money to support his and his council’s forthcoming pilgrimage to the capital to petition the Emperor on behalf of the congregation.
In the spring, the peasantry’s fervor, wrung from hunger and provocation, and the sum their figurehead had collected were all sufficient for their leader and his entourage to embark on the long-awaited mission to the emperor’s court.
The representative of the masses was admitted entrance to the court on a brisk Monday morning. He bowed to the Emperor and winked at the Minister of Agitation, who had accepted the considerable fee for holding session with the court.
“I represent the peasants of the empire,” their mouthpiece declared to the assembly. “We demand you revoke this nonsensical law prohibiting our genital dismemberment. We demand the freedom to be eunuchs if we choose.”
The Emperor was amused. “You demand? You demand or what?” he asked.
“Or we revolt.”
The Emperor smiled at his Military Chief.
“With what? Your pitchforks and scythes? We have shields and arrows and spears and armor.”
His Chief of the Military agreed.
“No. With our cocks,” the speaker said.
The Emperor’s court scoffed, except for the legislator, who was his typical befuddled self.
“How is that?” the Emperor asked. “Flesh is no match for steel. Even aroused, hardened flesh is no match, should that be your strategy. Trust me, you are woefully outmatched in force.”
“Precisely,” the representative said. “So we defy your absurd edict by butchering ourselves, as you have commanded against our doing. Defiance and revolution, we say, by slicing off our manhood with the precious steel of your lands. We will do unto ourselves with the steel of your empire that which you would do to us yourself, but cannot, if we forge your steel into the tools of our uprising first. We thieve that victory from you. We will liberate ourselves with the honed metal of our own scythes and cleavers and axes, disallowing you the victory of our emancipation by way of your own arrows and swords.”
The court had heard rumors of this man’s gift of rhetoric. All were impressed. They all looked to their emperor to rebut.
“Cutting off your own cocks and balls? Defying my command?” the Emperor pretended to fume. “As I have explicitly disallowed? How dare you – you weasel, you rat, you turncoat, you traitor? This is an outrage. I should have you imprisoned.”
The people’s representative stood firm.
“Imprison me if you will. But, yes, the dawn of our systematic emasculation has come. Today we reclaim, by action and will, our freedom to do so if you refuse to return to us, without struggle, that which we deserve.”
“Ah. Defiance by martyrdom,” the Emperor said. “Martyrdom by emasculation.”
The Minister of Agitation interrupted, “No. By emancipation. Emancipation, not emasculation.”
The wise Emperor was quick to understand the difference.
Redressing the speaker, the Emperor asked, “Emancipation then? It is a critical point.”
“Yes,” the people’s agent replied. “Emancipation. Clearly, emancipation.”
“Good. Then I should have you locked up. But I will allow you to return to warn them against my wrath should they choose to rebel. Tell them if they rebel, they are fools, there will be harsh punishment for defiance, and I will never rescind the edict.”
“Fools?” their mouthpiece asked. “You call them fools?”
“Yes. Fools. Imbeciles. Asses,” the Emperor said. “Be sure not to forget a single one. And now we are done.”
The representative bowed to the Emperor and the court, then took his leave. The Emperor’s court grumbled, trying to make sense of what to do about this agitator. Annoyed at their concern, the Emperor dismissed his court, with the exception of his Minister of Agitation again.
“Shall I commence the campaign of defaming the genitaled now?” the agitator asked.
“Let this play out,” the Emperor said. “Then we shall see.”
“Strange,” the agitator noted, “how this man of the people spoke nothing of their hunger or taxes.”
Pleased, the Emperor asked, “‘Have you every tried to strike the head a nettlesome goose? One of those pesky, hissing, biting geese?”
“Yes. The heads atop their scrawny, nimble necks are very elusive.”
“Indeed,” The Grand Emperor said.
Leaving the court on what would later be called The Monday of Scythes and Knives, the peasant leader regathered his own council.
“How is the verdict?” they asked.
“Very good, indeed,” he told them as they fled the capital to scatter the news, taking respite at the nearest village to announce, “Spread the verdict, brothers. The Emperor refuses to rescind his law. So, like our forefathers, we must resist. Is it not our legacy – our honored duty – to resist such tyranny and oppression?”
Throughout the empire, the angry peasants agreed, needing little reminder of the previous generations’ sacrifices in resisting evils for the sake of their future generations. Resistance was an instinctual, time-honored ceremony throughout the lands.
Their spokesman relayed to them, “When I told the Emperor of our planned liberation using the same steel in our blades that are in his spears and shields, I could see his rage. See, my fellows, how it enrages him to be deprived of our butchering? See how our rightful reclamation of our privilege and authority of self-emancipation enrages him? So enraged was our Grand Emperor that he threatened me with incarceration. See how he fears me? See how he fears us? See that his threats are nothing more than his deepest fears expressed and nakedly exposed.”
This predictably gave the peasantry solace. It lifted their spirits to believe the emperor was growing wary and fearful of them. And as their agent’s words stacked, so too did their feelings, accompanied by whispers and murmurs, of the growing tide of their power.
“Defy the tyrant!!! Defy the oppressor!!!” their spokesman boomed. “Liberate yourselves with your own sharpened steel. Slice and shred for the sake of your forefathers and the empire and the freedoms bestowed upon you by God!!!””
Season upon season of hungry bellies had yielded a mass of malnourished minds and souls as well, leaving both as malleable as white-hot steel to the hefty mallet.
“Our forefathers did not sacrifice for us to cower and whimper before our oppressors who dictate to us with the arrogance of gods!!!!”
Screams, chants and cheers built within the crowds.
“If we have no meat or grains to feed our wives and children – if their bellies ache from starvation – then let our liberation at least nourish their souls!!!!”
The crowds boomed.
“He calls us fools and asses and imbeciles, but the Emperor fears us!!! I tell you, he is afraid!!!”
Returns of “coward” and “idolater of cocks” rang throughout the villages and hamlets. The assemblies grew fevered. The shouts and cheers of fealty to the cause and repudiations of the Emperor were frenzied.
“Then off with our cocks, in defiance of the power-mad Emperor,” rang throughout the empire.
And thus, the mass revolt began. Throughout the lands, the peasantry proudly emasculated themselves in defiance of their emperor’s tyranny.
According to most, by measure of its mere execution, the rebellion was a success, even though, in the proceeding months, many of the rebels bled out and died from their brutal acts of self-neutering. Others perished from infection to their emancipating wounds. And the ones who didn’t perish were, at least, unable to procreate. There was much self-inflicted bloodshed and suffering accompanied by weeping and grief. An empire-wide day of celebration and mourning was organized for those who had died or were wounded in the cause. Special plots in graveyards were created for those who were lost, all of which helped assuage much of the loss, suffering and grief.
After months and months of strife, the rebellion had subsided. The Emperor’s court reconvened in the capital to discuss the state of the uprising. His court was again assembled. The Emperor asked the statistician if there had been any progress with the propagation problem.
“The empire appears to be in a much better place,” he told the Emperor. “The revolt has been laborious and attrite, but the population has steadily decreased – a decrease that is predicted to continue. As you know, there is far less breeding now due to the mass emasculation. And the populace as a whole, both rebels and those opposing their cause, have suffered losses from our internal skirmishing as well.”
The Grand Emperor smirked.
“All very good. And they called me a tyrant?” he asked his Minister of Agitation.
“Yes. And themselves emancipators.”
“Emancipators from what?”
“Emancipators from your tyranny.”
“More like emancipators of their own cocks and balls.”
The entire court burst into laughter. They took a while to settle and catch their breaths.
Speaking between his streaming tears, the Minister of Agitation added, “The surviving rebels wear wreaths around their loins as symbols of their sacrifice.”
“All the better for identifying the most stubborn of our imbeciles,” the Emperor said. “Though they present little threat now.”
“Shhhhhhhh,” the agitator advised. “Remember, they are not imbeciles, they are heroes.”
The chamber rang with laughter again.
The agitator continued, “And in the farthest provinces, women wear the circumcised organs of their husbands and sons around their necks, like garlands – as symbols of honor and remembrance.”
The Chief of Legislation choked on his wine, while the Military Chief – with an elbow to his ribs – advised him to toughen up .
“What disgusting beasts,” the Emperor said. “And I strive to keep the empire together for these animals?”
“It is disgraceful,” the Minister of Agitation noted. “But we must accept it as a condition of their martyrdom.”
“The greater the debasement, the greater the martyr,” the Chief of Military said.
“Yes,” the agitator said. “Martyrdom, suffering, loss – all as just compensation for empty bellies. A rather simple formula.”
Again, the Emperor was pleased with the sagacity of his minster.
“Anything else?” the Emperor asked of his Chief of Facts and Figures.
The statistician stood and pointed to one of his many books again.
“The outcome has been a success. Yet, unfortunately, we have lost some of our sharper tools in this exercise too – those who advised against the Eunuch Uprising – the traitors, as they were labeled. Still, on the whole, the balance is very good.”
“The ones they call the Cowardly Genitled now? Yes, their losses are pitiable, but nothing more than sunken debris among the necessary jetsam of conflict,” the Emperor said. “This time the blunter tools bear the heaviest burden. But the tide will change soon enough, and then it will be the blades’ turn to bear the cost.”
“Balance,” the Chief of Facts and Figures assured.
“Of course,” they all agreed.
Smug and satisfied, the Emperor turned to his Chief of Legislation.
“So there is nothing left to do now but rescind the law.”
Startled, the legislator flashed the same puzzled look to the court as when the edict was first announced. And again, none but the agitator returned his bewildered glances.
“After months of bloody conflict, the rebellion has gone from a rolling boil to a mere simmer. Why rescind now, after all the turmoil and when it is all but over? If you rescind the law, then they have won the savage revolt. They have gotten what they’ve wanted, and you will appear weak.”
The Emperor gave him a disingenuous chuckle, meant to highlight the legislator’s naiveté – the petty slight causing the legislator’s pale, powdered face to flush.
“In their way, they have won,” the Emperor replied. “They have their pride and martyrdom and their days of celebration and mourning for the sacrifices of their sons and husbands and grandfathers. Now they have all that they need.”
“So why allow them the victory of your rescinding the edict?” the legislator asked.
“Because we are the gambling house to their games of chance. But they may never be allowed to fully know that. When their perception of their predicament becomes too acute, we simply distract them time and time again, allowing them a few petty wins at the wheels and tables.”
The Minister of Agitation added, “Obviously, we are the commoner’ gods and they know it, but they cannot accept it. They are too petulant and arrogant to accept rule of themselves by other mere and mortal men. So we must allow them to believe the opposite. We must allow them gods and principles and lofty convictions, for our army is still scattered, is it not?”
The Chief of the Military nodded.
“And most of the peasants are still hunger while we are full?” the agitator asked.
All the council agreed.
“So rescind the edict and let them celebrate,” the Emperor declared.
All but the Chief of Legislation applauded.
“Openly celebrate? This will anger the opposition. It was a brutal conflict, still lightly contained. It will take time and diplomacy to repair the disharmony,” the legislator advised.
The Minster of Agitation rose,” The opposition’s time for victory and celebration will come soon enough. It always does. And in their hearts, they know it will because, in their hearts too, they understand the game. Their moral victory and revelry will come soon enough, so they will be appeased for a while as well.”
“And I have innumerable laws and edicts at my disposal for making it so,” the Emperor assured the tepid legislator. “And plenty of preferentials to dole.”
“And innumerable disgraces to keep our internal conflicts continual – such as the disgrace bestowed on those who were too cowardly to rebel,” the agitator added.
“By the traitors’ account, they were too wise for the emasculation,” the legislator added.
“Of course,” the agitator said. “All games of chance are played with cards or wheels of reds and blacks. Rights and wrongs. Rebels and traitors. Sages and fools. Moralists and the immoral.”
The legislator thought for a while as his powdered, pearly hue settled from its embarrassed flush.
“You are very wise,” the legislator said to the Emperor. “May the glory of your wisdom reign for eternity.”
And the rest of the court agreed with toasts and light applause.